Government agrees to fund new resort school

The government has agreed to fund the new school, but the council has yet to say when it will open - or where
The government has agreed to fund the new school, but the council has yet to say when it will open - or where
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A new 48-place school for children with additional needs is to open in Blackpool, it has been announced.

Late last year, The Gazette revealed how the council has submitted a bid to the government for the special school, which would cater for 10 to 16-year-olds currently travelling to schools outside the resort.

This morning, the council said it had been successful in its bid, though it has yet to reveal where the school will open, or when.

The special school with teach youngsters with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, and cater for pupils who need extra support for their speech, language, and autism as well.

Coun Graham Cain, the council's schools boss, said he was 'thrilled' the Department for Education had agreed to fund the free school, which will be commissioned by the authority but run by a sponsor, such as an academy trust.

He said the investment will 'benefit the young, vulnerable people in the town', while also helping to free up staff and resources at mainstream schools.

He added: "This will be the first SEMH specialist school in Blackpool and we are pleased that we will be able to build on providing links to services in the community."

The school will give specialist advice to all schools in the resort, with the hope of reducing the need for youngsters to attend special schools in the long-term.

Pupils will be given education, health, and care plans, which will be reviewed at least once a year, and they will be phased in over a two year period.

In December, Coun Cain said the majority of pupils with SEMH needs were going to independent specialist schools outside the borough.

As many as 70 youngsters were facing journeys of around an hour or less, which was proving costly to the taxpayer, and council chiefs had been discussing the possibility of opening a special free school for some time.

They decided to act after the government launched a bidding process and invited local authorities to express their interest, with town hall officials saying there was a need for such schools, with an increasing pressure on early years' services for special educational needs.

“This is due to Blackpool being a net importer of need, more babies surviving, who have additional needs and an increasing diagnosis of autism,” a children’s service report by director of people Delyth Curtis said.

Around 2.8 per cent of the overall school population have special needs and the Department for Education said £215m has been made available to help councils ‘grow and enhance’ plans to help them.

Applications for 131 new schools across the country were approved this morning, in what the government said was the 'largest wave of free schools approvals this Parliament, giving more parents the choice of a good school place for their child'.

Education secretary Justine Greening said: "We need schools that can bring out the best in every single child no matter where they’re growing up, how much their parents earn, or however different their talents are.

"That’s why these new schools are so important - they give us the school places we need for the future, and they also give parents more choices to find a great school place in their area that’s right for their child."